Carol Wyer Interview: “My first novels were comedies encouraging people to enjoy life to the maximum”

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Another awesome interview for you as I speak to Carol Wyer about her dark comedy and crime fiction novels.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction?

I started my writing career back in my thirties when I penned a series of educational books for children that taught French through cute, funny stories. They were highly illustrated and had titles such as Noir and Blanc -Two Naughty Cats. The books ended up being used in schools and were a stepping-stone to what happened later, when I decided I wanted to write for the adult market.

My first novels were comedies encouraging people to enjoy life to the maximum and laughing at the ageing process. My humorous non-fiction book, Grumpy Old Menopause was a chart-topping success and I found myself on radio shows in the UK and USA and New Zealand, writing articles for national magazines and on BBC Breakfast sitting on the red sofa discussing my writing with Susanna Reid and Bill Turnbull. The book went on to win The Peoples’ Book Prize Award. I was finally making a name for myself.

In 2016, Bookouture (part of the Hachette group) took on my madcap comedy called Life Swap and I was signed to write further comedies. It was about that time, I realised each book was becoming darker and the genre wasn’t suitable for my developing style. I wanted to add twists (which I’d managed to do brilliantly in Life Swap, but romantic comedy didn’t allow me to surprise the reader as I wished. I also yearned to write about human nature in more depth and although I love making people laugh or feel good about life and themselves, I also wanted to chill them and surprise them.

I sent in a pitch for a psychological thriller that had been bubbling about in my brain for a couple of years and my editor loved it. I wrote the book and no sooner had I submitted it than my editor suggested I write more. She saw potential not as a stand-alone but a crime series, and so the DI Robyn Carter series came to be. Little Girl Lost shot up the charts and earned me acclaim as a crime writer.

What is your background and how did you get into writing?

It’s too long a story to tell here but as an only child and a lonely one at that, reading was my escape. Following a second prolonged period in hospital where I underwent major spinal surgery in my twenties, I communicated with my friends and family through a series of lengthy letters that charted the daily crazy events in a hospital ward. Using stories that nurses recounted to me and my observational skills, I put a humorous slant on events. Everyone loved the letters and asked for more. After my recovery and while working in Casablanca as a teacher, I began writing stories for children – purely for fun. Writing became my release just as reading had been before that and I wanted to provide the same escapism, raise spirits through humour and basically entertain people.

What do you enjoy reading and how does this influence your writing?

My parents were both avid readers and we’d all troop down to the library on a Friday to select books for the coming week. While my father enjoyed light-hearted reads such as the Don Camillo series by Giovannino Guareschi or Dennis Wheatley novels, my mother would read absolutely everything and anything. If she enjoyed it, she’d insist I read it after her. So, one week I’d read The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone, about the Italian artist Michaelangelo, the next, an historical romance from Georgette Heyer novel or something very different like Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest

At the age of seventeen, I had a major health setback that saw me bedbound in hospital for several months followed by more months at home. I read and read and read. I think I probably read almost every book available our local library during that period along with a whole bunch of Mills and Boon books my friends brought along to keep me occupied.

My literary diet was varied to say the least but my penchant was always for thrillers and crime, especially Agatha Christie’s works. I couldn’t get enough of them.

I studied both English and French Literature at university and it was there I picked up a penchant for humour. Chaucer’s works amused me enormously as did Voltaire, especially Candide.

Once I completed my studies, I began to read contemporary, ‘lighter’ reads and that was when I got heavily into thrillers. I am a speed-reader so I’ll get through a book in a few hours, much to the chagrin of my husband who insists I read any book I receive as a gift more slowly.

I absolutely adore thrillers – the darker, the better. The complexity of the human mind fascinates me and although I only studied psychology as a first-year module at university I often wish I’d delved further. I suppose, in a way I do nowadays. I spend a lot of time researching murderers and reports on those who’ve committed heinous crimes. I try to give my readers the experience of being inside the mind of my fictitious killer in most of my books. I don’t want them to feel sorry for the murderer or applaud their actions but sometimes life and unfortunate circumstances can make people behave in dreadful ways and that’s what I try to exploit.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author to help them succeed in today’s publishing industry?

My husband gave me the best advice ever when I told him I wanted to be a writer. He said if I was serious and really wanted a career out of it, I’d have to work hard and never give up. He was right. I have worked – day and night, almost every single day for the last 10 years. I have written books while on holiday, stayed awake night after night to meet deadlines and taken every knockback, bad review or disappointment on the chin. Success doesn’t always come with the first book or even the second, or the third. You might have to plug away at it for a few years before you find a publisher willing to take you on but I think that’s fine. You are honing your craft all the while and building a presence online and gradually making a name for yourself. You are improving all the time. In brief my advice is: be patient, stay positive and never give up.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

This is so tough! I’d love to collaborate with Janet Evanovich. She inspired my early writing and when I sent her an email to tell her, she answered it. She also congratulated me on Twitter when Last Lullaby came out in December – I had a complete fangirl moment and ran about the house screeching. I’d also like to work with the queen of crime, Angie Marsons, who is a fellow Bookouture author. Not only is she an incredible writer but an absolutely hilarious person. She keeps all our spirts up when we are flagging as a team with her funny posts.

Have you got any exciting new plans or projects coming up that you’d like to discuss?

This year is a busy one. Not only do I have two romantic comedies coming out but three more crime novels all in the DI Natalie Ward series. The first of those will be released in April, so expect news about it soon. I’m working on Book 4 at the moment and it is a really exciting book to write. I keep holding my breath writing some of the scenes and have to remind myself to release it. I have one last DI Robyn Carter book to pen. My fans keep emailing or messaging to ask if The Chosen Ones is the last book. Book 6 is waiting to be written, so hang on folks- I’ll get there. I’m also considering a stand-alone thriller for next year but I have a mountain of work to do before I can work on that.

 Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to going forward?

I just let out the biggest groan. You’ve reminded me that my TBR pile is a veritable mountain of books and I am so behind with my reading I need a year off to catch up. I am desperate to read all of them. Really desperate. I have a backlog of Jeffery Deaver and Jo Nesbo novels, a large number of Scandinavian Noir books, Lars Kepler’s entire series to read and a Kindle stuffed full of Bookouture authors’ works. However, there are far too many great books that I definitely want to get my hands on: Alafair Burke’s The Wife, Belinda Bauer’s Snap and CJ Tudor’s The Chalk Man, Steve Cavanagh’s Th1rt3en: Aargh, too many, stop me!

Thanks for taking the time- its been a pleasure hearing from you!

 

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